Facebook: From Calendar to Community

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If a church’s website is the front door to the community, then her Facebook Page is the side door. One in five website page views in the United States is Facebook — that is a staggering number. Churches are realizing that having a Facebook Page is more than just a placeholder, but can become a place for real community and exposure. Here are four ways to make your Facebook Page a place your community can gather.

1. Post New Content Regularly

If your Facebook Page becomes static, engagement will slowly decrease, then dry up altogether. People are not going to come over to your Page just to see the same posts from six months ago. Activity is a sign of life. Inactivity is a sign of no life.      

I was recently on vacation with my family and wanted to find a church to attend, so I went online looking for churches near our hotel. We found one and I decided to go to their Facebook Page and see what kind of ministry they were doing. The page lacked any activity, either from the church or its members. It was easy to assume the church had closed, so we decided to attend somewhere else. You don’t want a ghost town for a Facebook Page.

If you are not social media savvy, find a trustworthy, socially-aware volunteer to take on the church’s Facebook Page as a ministry. Social media can be a source of great light and encouragement to the community as a whole. Have some basic guidelines so a volunteer knows what you expect, and how to properly use and engage with others on social media.

2. Share Life Before You Share Information

For many churches, Facebook is just another place to put the bulletin. “Come to this event.” “Give to this building program.” If all your Facebook Page is doing is telling people the church calendar, it is not going to receive much engagement, because people don’t engage with calendars. People engage with life. They engage with ideas, vision, mission, and authenticity. 

A great way to share life is to share pictures and videos of community involvement. Trunk or Treat was a hit, so put some pictures of the cool cars online. Was the Men’s Retreat powerful? Put a video clip up of the guys and their chainsaw races. Sharing these slice-of-life images does a few things. The person in these pictures may tag themselves, which then connects that picture to all their friends and family. Sharing and celebrating wins also shows guests or fringe attenders that there is life in the church. They are exposed to a life and a movement that may draw their hearts.

The point is this: Your church's Facebook Page can give value to its community. It can share heart and life. If the Page only has one post a week, and that post is “Come on Sunday,” then it is not a page worth following. Remind people about the vision. Celebrate wins. A good ratio should be three posts of sharing life to everyone post of request.

NOTE: Have a policy on how you are going to handle photos of children. Some parents do not like their kids’ images on Facebook without permission. Just be aware of the world you live in.

3. Give People the Word of God Daily

Speaking the word of God into people’s lives is a powerful thing. Giving your people God’s word in a small daily dose can be a source of encouragement and shepherding, and social media is a new, great avenue to share with your people throughout the week. As a pastor, I am in the word every morning. I just put one verse from my daily reading on our church’s Page. I didn’t announce I was going to do this. I just started doing it. And the engagement with these posts has been delightful. Without any direction, members are liking, sharing, and commenting. They are getting some small tidbit of God’s word into their heart on a daily basis.

4. Respond to Comments

Facebook is not Twitter. Twitter is a soapbox where you just say things and move on. Facebook is a conversation. It is built for back and forth. If you are going to make your Facebook Page a place for your church to find information, you have to also monitor for questions. 

At least once a month we will have a message or comment asking about our Sunday gatherings. People ask about the time, the dress code, or even for directions. I know a few clicks could give these answers, but being asked is a chance to connect. It is cool answering a question on Facebook on Sunday morning and that seeing that same family at church 3 hours later.

And if you miss a comment, go ahead and apologize. We had a family ask for a ride to church 20 minutes before the gathering and no one saw it. So when we did see it later that afternoon, a church member reached out and apologized and made plans to pick them up the following Sunday.   

What is your church’s Facebook strategy? Do you have one? What is the engagement like? Your church’s Facebook page can be a place of encouragement, of training, of mission. All it takes is some effort, some intention, and some vision.

This article was written by Ernesto Alaniz for Church Juice. Church Juice provides CRCNA congregations with free resources, articles, and opportunities for training and consulting on church communications. Get more from Church Juice by clicking here.

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In BC Canada we have a policy or law that says any photo online must have people's permission. Plus there are many people who don't want or can't (a police officer) have their photo online. This became so difficult to manage that we decided no pictures of our people online. So how do we go beyond being a calendar to being a community?